Whether you are a senior yourself, or the loved one of someone who is elderly, elder financial exploitation is an important issue that needs to be understood and discussed. Unfortunately, because it is an uncomfortable topic of conversation, perpetrators of elder financial abuse often get away with their crimes. In an effort to prevent these perpetrators from causing more harm, the Hauppauge elder law lawyers at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia want to warn everyone about the threat of financial exploitation of the elderly.
What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?
Elder financial abuse, or exploitation, can be defined very broadly as illegal or improper use of an older person’s money or property. This type of elder abuse takes numerous forms and can occur under a wide variety of scenarios, including:
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole, or outright steal, money or assets.
- A caregiver using an elder person’s money without permission or taking property from the individual’s home.
- A family member or caregiver getting an elderly individual to sign documents under false pretenses that transfer assets to the perpetrator, either now or after the elderly person’s death.
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person.
Elder Financial Exploitation Facts and Figures
Sadly, elder abuse, in all its forms, is not a new phenomenon in the United States. As the older population continues to grow at an astounding rate, however, issues that impact the elderly have taken on a heightened importance in the U.S. in recent years. Most people find the facts and figures relating to elder financial exploitation to be shocking. For example:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past
- Elder abuse is vastly under-reported; only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- 90 percent of the perpetrators are family members
- When a family member is the perpetrator, two-thirds of the time it is an adult child or spouse of an adult child.
- Cognitive impairment and the need for help with activities of daily living make victims more vulnerable to financial abuse
How Can You Prevent Elder Financial Abuse?
Whether you are a senior yourself, of you are simply worried about a loved one who is, the key to preventing elder financial exploitation is to acknowledge the threat and remain vigilant in your efforts to avoid becoming a victim. Educate yourself and/or your loved ones. One of the primary reasons why elder abuse, in general, is so grossly underreported is that victims are so often ashamed to have been victimized. Consequently, no one talks about the problem. Learn as much as you can about current scams and specific threats and discuss those threats with your friends and neighbors and/or with your elderly loved ones. Specific steps you can take to prevent becoming the victim of elder financial abuse include:
- Set all social media settings to private and check those settings regularly.
- Never post personal identifying information on social media regardless of your settings.
- Don’t advertise when you plan to go on vacation over social media.
- Never give out personal information to someone over the telephone. If the caller is legitimate, they won’t have a problem letting you hang up and call back using a number with which you are familiar.
- Do not fall for IRS scams. If you really owe the IRS money, you will receive something in writing – and they will NEVER ask you to wire money or transfer money electronically.
- Thoroughly research any charities that ask you to make donations.
- Don’t assume that you can trust someone just because they are family.
- Make it clear now who you want handling your finances if you reach a point where you can no longer handle them yourself. A power of attorney or voluntary guardianship can make this choice legally binding.
Contact Hauppauge Elder Law Lawyers
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you are concerned that a loved one is the victim of elder financial exploitation, contact the New York elder law attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.